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Trip Planning...Crested Butte?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
How is Crested Butte for a week of skiing for a group of 40-something old friends, good to excellent skiers, who want to rent a house on the hill, cook and drink in most nights, and enjoy the nightlife essentially on the first and last nights of the week?

Mostly interested in the mountain experience...we are, after all, going to Alta/Snowbird this year!
post #2 of 27
CB has a great mountain with lots of good packed runs and some of the best steeps in the country (and lots of it), but right now they only have about a 50" base and consequently most of the steep terrain is not open yet, and the stuff that is requires a lot of rock dodging. If you want to really experience the place you need to go when that have at least 70" and preferably more base.

The ski mountain village is a few miles from the original victorian town. The village is mostly hotels, motels, condos and a lot of construction. You can probably find a ski in/ski out place without much trouble, but you will want to go into town (free shuttle or 5 min. drive) for restaurants and bars. You can walk the entire town because it is pretty small. A cool place with lots of fun nooks and crannies (both the town and the mountain). It is never crowded.

Do your shopping in Gunnison on the way there, it will save you a lot of money if you are cooking and drinking in. If you are there for a week you may want to venture over to Monach for a day. It is an easy 1:20 drive from the Butte and is small but has some great expert terrain, a hike to area, and cat skiing for pretty cheap. You can pick up discount tickets ($39) at the City Market or the sporting goods store on the way through Gunnison.
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 

Actually planning for future years

So the thin base this year doesn't bug me. Is this an unusual year by their standards? The trip I plan for our group is always last week January, to steer clear of crowds while maxing snow base.

You mentioned packed runs...how frequent are powder days, and what is the predominant exposure?
post #4 of 27
I've gone to CB when the base is pretty thin (spent a week there in late March of 2001), but managed to have a good time. Sure, there's some rock-dodging in the steeps, but it's a fun mountain nonetheless.

I don't know how much the new ownership has changed things, but based on my experience I wouldn't suggest staying ski-in/ski-out. The base village services are limited at night and some of the accomodations a bit dated.

We rented a really nice house in town and had a great time. CB's a terrific victorian village, really fun to walk around in at night. Good bars and just generally a good vibe. Shuttle was regular and easy, and even though I tend to hate places on shuttle routes, staying in the actual town of Crested Butte was well worth a five minute shuttle ride to the hill in the morning.

If you're flying to CO, I also highly recommend driving from Denver to CB if you have the time, rather than flying into Gunnison. The high, windswept plains below the 14ers on highway 285 between Fairplay and Buena Vista are something to behold in my opinion. It's not a short drive, and it is a shackle if the weather is terrible. But it's very Colorado.

And yes, I also recommend getting the basics in Gunnison, as far as booze and groceries go. Much cheaper!

Mollie
post #5 of 27
They're getting a lot more snow this week. The powder on the back side can be incredible, even at 55-60 ".
The Wooden Nickle is a great place to eat if you're a carnivore.
The Idle Spur brewpub is nice as well. There is a lot of construction up at the Ski area, so definitely take the free shuttle.
post #6 of 27
Personally, I think it's just a tad small for an entire week for a group of hard-charging experts. Plenty of steeps though. Also plenty of intermediate runs. The town is great. I'm not sure if there is still cat skiing at Irwin lodge, or you could safari down to Taos or over to Telluride if you guys get bored at CB. Must be plenty of back-country skiing nearby as well.
post #7 of 27
Irwin Lodge is pretty much done. It had some decent terrrain but the southern exposure killed them.

You might think about Aspen. Snowmass has tons of ski in/out houses and we have lots of expert terrain that is actually open. Plus if your really hardcore you can skin to CB in about eight hours.
post #8 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD
Irwin Lodge is pretty much done. It had some decent terrrain but the southern exposure killed them.
I believe they are closed for renovations until 2007 and plan to re-open. Unless you know something the rest of us don't?
post #9 of 27
That is what I heard too about Irwin Lodge. It was and will be a great place. Stayed there in the Summer of '99.
All the above about CB is true. Great town (true ski/mining town feel), no crowds, friendly folks, more gourmet restaurants than any other ski town(or so the claim goes). One of the many reasons we are moving there.
Timberline restaurant is awesome and so is Soupcon if you want some great food. Gourmet Noodle is not to be missed either for wonderful Italian.
For a good time apres ski try Kochevar's or Talk of the Town (locals place with pool tables/good micro's). Get a fat tire while you are there. Awesome micro that used to be brewed in "The Butt".
There are more ski in/out lodging going up to the left of the ski mountain(prospect area). Don't know what is available rental wise.
The place is fun when there is not much snow. We skied there in 98,99,02 and none were good snow years but we had decent coverage. Bluebird days too and you can't beat that with a stick!!
post #10 of 27
I just returned from my first trip to Crested Butte. We flew in and out of Grand Junction, using frequent-flyer miles on Northwest/Delta.

It was an easy drive up from Grand Junction (had good weather both ways, though there was lots of wildlife on the road at night).
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by philipshaw
So the thin base this year doesn't bug me. Is this an unusual year by their standards? The trip I plan for our group is always last week January, to steer clear of crowds while maxing snow base.

You mentioned packed runs...how frequent are powder days, and what is the predominant exposure?
Last year was a big snow year, but for about 5 years before that I think the base was close to its present level, but those were fairly bad snow years. It is never crowded (by big resort standards).

The ski runs wrap around the mountain so the exposure is at all angles, but I think predominantly north around to southeast. Because much of the area is in the shadow of the Butte it gets shady on a lot of the mountain very early in the day.

They advertise "the best courdory in Colorado" and have seamless grooming on lots of runs, including some steep stuff. The frequency of powder days is a crapshoot, although this year they seem to be on the south edge of the nothern storm cycle and have been getting regular snow, but not the big dumps.

Like Crank mentioned, it may be a bit small for a whole week for a group of hard-charging experts, but the steep stuff there really is incredible. If you have an adventurous group and don't mind hitting a few rocks you can get in lots of places to scare yourselves.
post #12 of 27
The comment about the thin base and closed terrain this year is just not accurate. At 57" or so for mid-Jan, that is equal to or greater than the average. It may even be more than they had at this time last year which was the best year in many. Also, all of the main areas of the extreme terrain are open, including Headwall, Teocalli, North Face, Spellbound/Phoenix, and even the Third Bowl. Last time I looked, only the areas below the peak on the west side were not open, but that's only a couple of runs like Banana/Funnel.

If you're up to skiing this terrain, you can certainly ski all week and still find new areas to explore. If you can ski single black runs confidently, then you can ski a significant portion of the double black terrain also. You just have to know where you're going and what to avoid. Be sure to hire a mountain guide if no one in your party knows his way.

If you don't want to venture into these areas, you certainly can ski all the main mountain in a week, but you'll still have a great time in one of Colorado's best mountains and best towns.
post #13 of 27
They are up to 72" today, with a big front coming.
CB has plenty to do apres ski, from a nice dinner at the Wooden Nickle, to a cold beer at the Idle Spur.
Kdskis2 is spot on as well, we spent a great evening at Talk of the Town with the "Locals". Lots of good folks, we played pool and shot some darts well into the evening.
Good times.
post #14 of 27
When I was there a few weeks ago only Headwall and North Face were open and it was virtually impossible to ski them without hitting rocks. You had to ski over rocks just to get into the North Face area. A few inches of new snow really adds to the adventure. The CB locals are very used to this but I think that most skiers will find that it is not much fun with good skis. As Bruce J states. "You just have to know where you're going and what to avoid," which only comes from local knowledge or trial and error (i.e. hitting the rocks the first time you ski that run).

CB is a fantastic area with probably the best extreme terrain in the country but it is all rock, and snow does not stick to steep rocks that well. I do not want to be a bummer but I challange anyone on their first trip to CB to ski Spellbound into Phoenix Bowl with a 57" base and come away with their skis unscathed. With all due respect to Bruce J, I still stand by my recommendation of waiting until the base hits 70" if possible to maximize enjoyment of a week long trip.
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot

CB is a fantastic area with probably the best extreme terrain in the country but it is all rock, and snow does not stick to steep rocks that well. I do not want to be a bummer but I challange anyone on their first trip to CB to ski Spellbound into Phoenix Bowl with a 57" base and come away with their skis unscathed. With all due respect to Bruce J, I still stand by my recommendation of waiting until the base hits 70" if possible to maximize enjoyment of a week long trip.

It shouldn't be long at the rate they are going. They got another 7" last night and the base is now at 61". I'm headed there in March. It looks there will be plenty of base by then.
post #16 of 27
Hey, Mudfoot. I don't know if you've skied Teocali Bowl (I haven't yet), but it opened very early this season, right when Headwall did. You must have missed the opening of the other areas by a day or so, but I was sure they must have opened right around the first of the year.

You're right that there definitely are some rocks on the old CB mountain. Of course that's part of what it makes it so cool to ski -- the rugged terrain. I've never been there when it hasn't been rocky in parts of Headwall, particularly right around the big traverse in the middle. The entrance to Pheonix/Spellbound is the same. But, in my experience the rocky bits are really quite limited, usually right at the entrances, and you then get access to great areas of deep snow with virtually no rock issues. I guess I've learned over the years that getting a little extra texture at the top is the price of admission to a lot of great stuff below. Wax is cheap, but adventures are priceless! I always hit these areas carefully, so I've never blown an edge or anything serious.

The main point is that the snow CB has had all year is better than average and getting better by the day. If someone wants to ski it, this is a great time to do it!
post #17 of 27
BruceJ: I skied Headwall shortly after it opened, and then returned a couple weeks later and did it again, but it was right before the 1st and I don't think Teocali Bowl was open. They had just opened the North Face on my last visit and you still got the free stone grind with every run. Last year we hit it late in the season when they had 80+" base and it was the first time I could "ski" into the top of Spellbound, although it still required some interesting moves.

I love the Butte, but rocks are generally part of the deal. The locals have been skiing them so much they don't even seem to notice anymore, but from the perspective of a first time skier it is definitely "heads up" skiing on almost all the steeps. There are good snow lines down almost every run, but there are even more rock corners you can find yourself having to tip toe out of. Even after skiing the place a few days a year for several years I still would not venture up either of the T-bars with new skis on.

CB has definitley been getting more snow since our last visit and we are planning to go back as soon as possible. I guess you don't get to play with that much gravity if you aren't willing to sacrifice a little p-tex.
post #18 of 27
Mudfoot:
Have you ever taken the "Million Dollar Highway" from the top of North Face/Hawk's Nest over to the Phoenix Bowl? It's a rock-free way to ski Phoenix. You do miss Spellbound, because you come in right below it, but it's not a big bowl and you take a pass on the rocks and interesting manuevers to get into it (not to mention the traverse and hike into it!). You might want to give it a try next time. Let me know if you need a little more description of how to get there.

Bruce
post #19 of 27
BruceJ: I always drop off the T-bar down, up and over to the left edge of North Face and then go right on the long traverse thru the gate and over towards Phoenix Bowl. If there is a way to avoid the always rocky entrance into North Face I'd love to know about it. The worst part of that run is usually just getting started. After the gate the traverse isn't bad and I have finally figured out a good line down the right side of Phoenix. There is some wild skiing if you drop in before you get to Phoenix, but for me it has always involved a lot of hunt and peck.

I skied Spellbound for the first time last year and even with the 80" base I had to pull some major moves out of my ass to ski in and keep from taking my skis off and climbing down. It looks like maybe you can traverse around the top to the right and ski in, but I didn't get a chance to try it. I am always amazed that that terrain is in-bounds and anyone can buy a ticket and be turned loose on it. I guess that's what makes the Butte so special.
post #20 of 27
Bruce and mudfoot - Will either of you guys be there in early March? I'll be there starting the first and wouldn't mind having someone show me around those areas.

Thanks!
post #21 of 27
Mudfoot: It sounds like you've got the same way to Phoenix that I was mentioning. The rocks, if any, are right as you drop onto the North face from the trail off the T-Bar. They're usually just around one of the drop in slots, but with some inspection you can usually find a relatively clean way in. I actually don't mind the rocks as much as the wave moguls right there. I usually just try to drop down off the worn entrance line as soon as I can. Unfortunately I don't know if there's any amount of snow that would do away with this completely. I don't recall ever having a rock issue after getting past the first ten feet or so. Then it's smooth sailing to Hawk's Nest, then over through the gate and the short traverse to Phoenix (which has also been rock free for me).

I've only gone into the top of Spellbound once. When we exited the hike-in trail, I went straight up to the edge and said "Holy Cr@p! Do we have to go down here?" It was really nasty, very steep and big rocks. Here's a picture of my two sons just below the rock band at the top of Spellbound that I thought we had to ski to get into the bowl:


Fortunately, we went over to the skier's far left. It was definitely boney, but not too difficult to cross in slowly, picking a careful line, one turn to get out, and then onto the main bowl. Once in the bowl it was very nice all the way.

Here's a shot looking back up at Spellbound from the bottom. You can see the same rock band at the very top of the bowl. You can't really see where we entered on the far right:


Finally, just for one more mouth-watering shot, here's one looking down toward Phoenix from the same vantage point:


Matt: I'm going to be there for the last half of Feb, but am leaving on the 27th. In past years the resort has offered free North Face tours every day. If you don't have someone you can trust to take you around, that would be a good way to get started (or a private lesson $$$).
post #22 of 27
Bruce: Great Pics! I think the second one shows the saddle that you can get to by traversing right at the top of the bowl. It looks like you could ski right in. Do you know if you can get to that line without too much trouble? Is it as skiable as it looks? You'd lose some vertical getting to it but the better truns might be worth it.

Matt: Can't say if I'll be there or not. I've used up my free days but if I stay at the Best Western in Gunnison we can get cheap tickets, so my wife and I may be going back. It is also easier to hit Monarch when staying in Gunnison. It all depends on the snow.

CB is a really fun place to explore because it has a million little nooks and crannies that are skiable, but you can also find yourself in places you wish you weren't. If they still have the North Face Tours that sounds like a nice way to get your bearings. The other option is the tried and true buying beers for the locals to hook up with a group that knows where they are going.
post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot

Matt: Can't say if I'll be there or not. I've used up my free days but if I stay at the Best Western in Gunnison we can get cheap tickets, so my wife and I may be going back. It is also easier to hit Monarch when staying in Gunnison. It all depends on the snow.

CB is a really fun place to explore because it has a million little nooks and crannies that are skiable, but you can also find yourself in places you wish you weren't. If they still have the North Face Tours that sounds like a nice way to get your bearings. The other option is the tried and true buying beers for the locals to hook up with a group that knows where they are going.
Well, let me know if you'll be around. Will buy beers for knowledgeable "non locals" too.

At other places those tours tend to be too slow. I hope that isn't the case there.
post #24 of 27
[quote=
Matt: I'm going to be there for the last half of Feb, but am leaving on the 27th. In past years the resort has offered free North Face tours every day. If you don't have someone you can trust to take you around, that would be a good way to get started (or a private lesson $$$).[/QUOTE]

Wish I was going and thanks for the tip. I believe I could ski that(or the what the pics show), especially with a tour. When I was there in the Winter of '02 I wasn't quite ready for that. You guys make me jealous. I love that place!
post #25 of 27
Mudfoot: I know what you mean about that saddle at the top on the skier's right. It looks very friendly from here, but I definitely didn't go that way. Either there are some unseen obstacles that keep you from getting over there from the top of Spellbound, or I just didn't see it. It certainly looks skied though, so I suspect there's a good way in. Guess I'll have to look at that next time, or someone else can chime in.
post #26 of 27
I go to western state in gunni, and i dont know what all you naysayers are talking about with CB right now. I have been skiing at least 4 days a week all season so far.

we had the earliest North Face, Teocalli Bowl, Spellbound/Phoenix, and Third Bowl openings ever. Currently everything is open except for the Peak.

Sure it gets a little bony when you are skiing the main drags on North Face and the top of Spellbound, but I've only got one little tiny core shot (smaller than a thumbtack) this year, and that was skiing on Edge, where it is much more rocky right now. Its only in scree fields and entrances where you will find rocks, and they are easily avoidable.

Currently it's not looking good until the first week of Feb. for some more accumulation.

March is CBs wettest month.

If you can't get some locals or an employee tour to show you around the extreme limits, then you should pick up a CB Extreme Limits Ski Guide for $5 at any local ski shop or base of the ski area. They go into very good detail of every extreme area on the mountain.

I will give any of you visitors some hut tours if you bring the green pass, there is about 15 shacks that i know of.
post #27 of 27
disgusting trees and virgin forest still have some decent powder if you explore in there.

and trees pretty muche verywhere except bakery and double top are still great
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